Updated: Jun 14, 2019
*The names have been changed to protect the innocent
I've been giving baseball lessons to Harold for over a year. He is not yet 12, and my guess is that he is far more gifted in areas that aren't baseball (at least I hope so). Needless to say, it's been a struggle for both of us. His prolonged lack of improvement has probable men harder on me than it has on him.
This past Little League season, he was told that if he wanted to play, he would have to play with kids several years younger than him. This decision from the league was, without a doubt, the right one. But it was difficult for him and his parents to understand.
So, instead of playing Little League, they opted to have him come work with me a couple of days a week. While that meant financial benefit to me, it also meant that I needed to get better at helping Harold improve.
I started getting creative. Harold's biggest issue was fear of getting hit with the ball (not something he ever admitted, but something that was blatantly evident). This meant that we did a lot of me throwing and him chasing for a long time; and we did a lot of me throwing pitches and him swinging and missing, for a long time. I was pulling my hair out (I eventually just shaved my head so I couldn't pull ti out any more...clearly that's why I shaved my head)
But Harold kept showing up. And I kept getting more creative. Finally, over the last month or so, things have started to change. After weeks of throwing golf ball sized foam balls to him, rapid fire, randomly calling out which hand to catch with, we don't play nearly as much fetch as we used to when we are throwing the baseball.
After nearly a year of stagnant exit velocities, well below average, measured by HitTrax (similar to a golf launch monitor), his numbers have started to improve. He now regularly hits balls off the tee over 50 mph. He has displayed marked improvement at hitting a pitched ball since I started throwing balls at a screen and he in turn, hit the ball off the tee with appropriate timing.
Harold still has a long way to go to be good, but I think that he has finally improved to the point where playing baseball with kids his own age doesn't place him in imminent danger.
Watching him walk away with a smile on his face after ending the day on a 54 mph line drive was about as rewarding a moment I have had as a coach. I'm not sure that in the year prior to this last month he has hit even 10 balls over 50 mph, let alone 10 balls over 52 like he did yesterday.
Harold just keeps showing up. I am a better coach because of it. I could have easily just continued to pocket the cash and played 30 minutes of fetch followed by 30 minutes of striking him out 407 times, but that wasn't good enough for either of us, and it certainly wasn't very much fun. But Harold kept showing up, so I was forced to get better.
Accomplishments come with varying levels of difficulty. The most worthwhile accomplishments are generally accompanied by great struggles. Consistency is key.
Through the struggles, keep showing up. Give yourself a chance to accomplish something great.